John Keats' life was filled with the loss of loved ones from a very young age. Watching those around him die and knowing that he himself was going to die from the same disease that plagued most of his family, the thought of death consumed Keats' entire being. Due to this horrible reality that he was forced to face, Keats became obsessed with immortality. Instead of facing his own impending death, Keats wrote about the everlasting beauty of classical art in "Ode on a Grecian Urn." John Keats was a major English poet despite his death at the early age of twenty-five. Keat's poetry describes the beauty of the natural world and art as the vehicle for his poetic imagination Due to his skill with poetic imagery and sound he reproduces this sensuous experience for his reader.
Keats' poetry evolves over his brief career from this love of nature and art into a deep compassion for humanity Twentieth-century poet T. S. Eliot judged Keats' letters to be "the most notable and the most important ever written by any English Poet." With the loss of both parents, Keats was given over to new guardians at the age of fourteen. His new guardians pushed him to become a surgeon and after schooling in "1811 he was apprenticed to a surgeon-apothecary." This was not where his passion laid and in 1814 he composed his first poem. After the composition of a few of his poems, Keats "struggled with his assumptions about the power of poetry and philosophy to affect the suffering he saw in life" As Keats' career began to develop and he completely devoted himself to poetry his brother Tom fell seriously ill with tuberculosis. Keats nursed his brother through the final stages of tuberculosis until December 1818 when Tom, after much suffering, finally passed on Later this same year Keats met and fell in love with a woman named Fanny Brawn e.
They were engaged for quite some time, but due to Keats financial difficulties at the time, they did not marry. Around the time of 1820 Keats began to suffer "the strain of consumption that was to kill him" and it was due to this illness that the two were never married. Keats was aware of his condition and the threat to his life. Consumption was not an uncommon illness in those days, and when it developed there was little hope. This illness "was a scourge among all classes of society, and the doctors were impotent. For most sufferers a diagnosis of tuberculosis was a notice of death.
Keats began to travel to areas where the air was purer and could alleviate some of his problems for a short time; however, there was no cure for this illness. Tuberculosis took John Keats' life on February 23 rd, 1821. Just a few days before his death Keats had asked that the words "Here lies one whose name was writ in water" be placed on his grave In response to the death that surrounded him and his own impending death John Keats's: Before he began to write these great Odes in May 1819, Keats wrote very few poems. Kenneth Muir has written that this period of time off from writing was necessary for the creative burst of energy Keats experienced in order to write these Odes. In the odes, " the most prominent structural feature, aside from the new stanza Keats developed, is the central symbol, which speaks for a part of the poet and provokes him dramatically into dialogue with himself." Keats' infatuation with immortality is expressed in his love for art in "Ode on a Grecian Urn." This urn is thousands of years old, has been preserved throughout time, and found its way to England.
In the first stanza, the speaker stands before the ancient Grecian urn and focuses on the pictures that are covering it that are frozen in time. He describes them "un ravished bride of quietness" and "foster-child of silence and slow time." The urn is then referred to as a "Sylvan historian" who can tell a story through the use of the images that cover the urn. This role of historian, "ascribed to the Urn also emphasizes its survival in a mutable world." Further into this first stanza he begins to talk about the legend that these shapes must hold and where they are from, "What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape." There is an image of some men and women together on the urn and he seems to be questioning what they are doing, "What mad pursuit? What struggle of escape? What pipes and timbrels? What wild escape?" . The speaker then moves on in the second stanza to a picture of a man lying under a tree with his lover playing a pipe. The piper's "unheard" melodies are sweeter than mortal melodies because they are unaffected by time In the third stanza, he looks at the trees surrounding the lovers and feels happy that they will never shed their leaves. He is happy for the piper because his songs will be "for ever new," and happy that the love of the boy and the girl will last forever, unlike mortal love, which lapses into "breathing human passion" and eventually vanishes, leaving behind only a "burning forehead, and a parching tongue" ().
Another picture on the urn is examined by the speaker in the fourth stanza, this one of a group of villagers leading a heifer to be sacrificed. The speaker begins to picture this little town where there is no one to tell the story because those villagers who have left will never return, "And, little town, thy streets for evermore will be silent be." Just as there is no one in the village to tell their story, he fears that there will be no one to go on and tell his story. In the final stanza that speaker addresses the urn once more by comparing it to Eternity and stating, "thou silent form, dost tease us out of thought as doth eternity." When this generation dies, the urn will remain instilling its mysterious lessons on others as well. The urn is saying that by finding all truth in beauty it can lead to a higher knowledge, "beauty is truth, truth is beauty, -- that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." Keats is saying, "the urn is proclaiming that there is not merely a close relationship but an actual identity between beauty and truth." This poem captures a delicate sense of balance between pleasure and pain.
The youth are caught between the painful anxiety preceding the kiss and the pleasure of the kiss itself. The trees in this poem are at their peak and are on the border of Fall and their death. It is moments like these between death and life or pleasure and pain that Keats portrayed best in his odes. The urn is not only immortal, but it is also immune to human disease. This urn exists outside of time in the human sense, it does not age and it does not die.
It will never experience the reality of mortality. This urn will be treasured for years to come, and Keats is enthralled with this idea. The urn and the drawings on the urn will never die. The piper's songs will be played forever and although we cannot hear his music, we can imagine the most beautiful music ever played. The young lovers will never worry about growing old; life can never touch their love. Keats wishes he could identify with this idea of timelessness..